Is My Child Overweight?

Reviewed by James Brann, M.D.

Are you worried your child may be overweight? You may have good reason to worry. In the United States the number of overweight children is climbing every year. More and more children are spending their time in front of television, video consoles or computers. This constant inactivity combined with excessively large meals is contributing to a nation of overweight children.

Compounding the problem is the amount of fast-food children eat every day. As busy parents find themselves lacking the time or energy to cook homemade meals, more families are turning to pizza or TV dinners to accommodate their nutritional needs. While easy meals like this may seem convenient, they may lead to a world of trouble as children adopt bad eating habits that last a lifetime.

Overweight In the States
In the United States alone the number of children classified as overweight has increased more than twofold in the last few decades. Studies suggest as many as 10% of children between the ages of two and five are overweight, and 15% of children between six and eighteen are overweight. How do you know if your child is overweight? Check in with your pediatrician. If your child falls above the 95th percentile for weight over one year of age, there is a good chance your child is overweight. Your child’s pediatrician will take height and weight measurements to help calculate your child’s BMI.

Impact of Obesity and Overweight in Children
What effects can being overweight have on your child? For one your child is at risk for serious health complications associated with weight, including:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Asthma or other breathing problems
  • Gallbladder and liver problems

Children who are overweight are also more susceptible to eating disorders including bulimia and anorexia nervosa during adolescence, and are more likely to develop depression than their normal weight peers. Constant teasing and low self-esteem may contribute to substance abuse in children who are overweight.

Who’s At Risk?
All children are at risk for becoming overweight if they eat poorly. Some lifestyle habits and genetic factors put some children more at risk than others. Part of the problem is over consumption of fast foods and excessively processed foods. Many children now engage in sedentary activities that can promote weight gain. There are genetic factors that may contribute to weight gain in children, including endocrine disorders. The biggest risk factor however is too little activity. Most children today watch between 2.5 and 5 hours of television or video games every day. Many children eat while playing, which can increase the amount of food children consume.